Muslim eco-conference drops “green haj”

For the past two days, scores of officials from Muslim states all over the world have been meeting in Bogor, a city in western Java, Indonesia, to discuss climate change. Similar meetings were held in Kuwait in 2008 and Turkey last year, but organisers billed this as the first ever “International Conference on Muslim Action Climate Change”.

Delegates from more than a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia, concluded their deliberations late Saturday night with the issuance of the Bogor Declaration (yet another declaration named after this town). The document is light on detail, bereft of progress on the “green haj” concept, but ambitious in its call for action to raise awareness about man-made global warming.

The statement’s English version is quixotically worded but the most important agreed actions seem to include (in the order they are given in the declaration):

  1. promote sustainable development according to Islamic values, which follow a “holistic approach” recognising that the “preservation of the ecosystem is the preservation of life”
  2. call on the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to establish a climate change task force
  3. mobilise Muslim scientists and researchers to “transform the political mindset” of the Islamic world regarding the “holistic approach” of Islam to climate change
  4. call on Muslim leaders to show leadership on climate policy including development of new financial tools to reduce emissions
  5. encourage Muslims to be “agents of change” by raising public awareness about climate change
  6. actively promote environmental “ethics and practices” across all sections of society
  7. introduce environmentalism into the curriculum of Islamic schools, an “eco-pesantren programme” which can be “enhanced and replicated” around the world
  8. work on creating “Islamic Green Cities” starting with Bogor

It’s easy to be cynical about such meetings and their statements, especially after the fiasco of Copenhagen. Apparently the “green haj” idea was not even discussed because the concerned Saudi official did not attend the meeting. That’s a shame. It’s an attention grabbing idea which could help to promote environmental awareness across the Muslim world, a goal expressed elsewhere in the declaration.

Some of the declaration’s opening statements aren’t exactly insights of stunning clarity, and there is the inevitable contortion to place Islam at the centre of climate change debate:

Climate change is a science-based phenomena induced by human behavior. Therefore, the approach to deal with climate change needs to influence human motivation. Hence, religious values, in this case Islamic teaching, are very potential to influence the behavior of human being to help mitigate the climate change.

But if you take it at face value the declaration deserves to be considered. The Muslim world, especially Saudi Arabia, needs to be made more aware about environmental issues, and the declaration rightly points out education as a key place to start. The “eco-pesantren” idea is a good one. If children must be brainwashed into a religion, at least include in the curriculum a rational belief in the fragility and beauty of nature.


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